Monday, December 17, 2012

A Word for Westboro

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Westboro Baptist Church has picketed the Newtown area in light of last week's horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. These yahoos (who should never be confused with real Baptists or a real church) seem to have the same motive of troubled killers: to make a name for themselves by defaming others in an attention-grabbing stunt.

Based on the few picket signs I could bear to read before nearing a vomitous reaction, the Westboro folks trumpet a clear line of reasoning; a horrible event happened to Newtown, and therefore, God must be judging the town (and America, by extension) for their sin. Sadly, it's a mistaken line of reasoning that many adhere to in a less heinous manner.

I wish Jesus addressed this issue directly somewhere. Oh wait, he did! Luke 13:1-3 recounts this unique encounter,

"There were some present at that very time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'"

Here, in this passage, we hear of an event where Pilate "mingled" the blood of some Galileans with that of their sacrifices. In short, he killed them unjustly, just like the Sandy Hook shootings. And yet Jesus asks his audience, "Did this happen because those victims were worse than the rest of you?! Was this God's brutal judgment?" In the words of Westboro's picket sign, did God send the shooter?

Jesus' words are clear and telling for horrible and unjust tragedies like this. "No, I tell you." This did not happen as judgment because the victims were worse than you, or worse than any other survivors. This happened to remind us to always repent, to stay right with God, and to continually check our hearts before the Lord, lest we perish apart from him.

Sorry, Westboro. According to Jesus, the shootings (and other such tragedies) were not God's retribution of hate, but his reminder of love.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Types of Worship Songs

Here's a quick little thought on two types of worship songs, both of which are necessary for your worship experience. (BTW, I'm talking about lyrical content and not minor chords, half-time, or reverb. Though I do enjoy a mean delay...)

First, there are songs that we sing primarily about God- who He is and what he has done. In these songs, we sing and recognize theological, doctrinal, and historical truths about God and Christianity. (Generally, hymns focus more deeply on such content.) It is helpful to note that these items are true regardless of our experience, feelings, or passion. I can always sing "Jesus paid it all / all to him I owe / sin had left a crimson stain / he washed it white as snow." This is always objectively true.

Second, there are songs that we sing about our experience, our thoughts, and our feelings about God. These are things that generally should be true of the Christian experience, but depending on the specific lyric they may or may not be at that moment. (Many more modern songs are focused in this direction.) "Falling on my knees in worship / Giving all I am to seek your face / Lord, all I am is Yours." In these songs, we sing about our subjective feelings and professions to God.

A few thoughts on these types of lyrical content in our worship songs. First of all, these aren't mutually exclusive. Some songs mix the two, as they sing deep theological truths and then sing about our experience (How Great Thou Art comes to mind...). Secondly, the Psalms display both focuses in their lyrics, sometimes in the same Psalm (Psalm 145 for example). Lastly, I'm not saying one song type is superior to the other. Just as in the Christian walk, our worship songs need to focus on theological truth AND the experience of that truth in our daily lives. Both are necessary for a healthy life, and therefore, both are necessary for a healthy worship style.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Sermons from ONE28's Youth Retreat

I had the privilege to speak at ONE28 Ministry's recent summer retreat. (ONE28 is the youth ministry of Foothill Bible Church.) We had the chance to look at the theme "Nothing Compares" from 3 passages in Philippians. I have the audio of each message below, for your and my mom's enjoyment.

Audio (Click on the link to listen! CTRL + click to open in new tab)
Nothing Compares with Joyful Service- Philippians 1:19-26
Nothing Compares with Humble Community- Philippians 2:1-11
Nothing Compares with Knowing Jesus- Philippians 3:1-11

Scripture Passages
Philippians 1:19-26
Philippians 2:1-11
Philippians 3:1-11


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bible is a Big Deal

Notes from Sunday's Refuel study...

Many times, we want God to “speak to us” and tell us something new and amazing about how to live our lives, or what purposes He has for us. We need to realize that he speaks to us daily through his Word, the Bible- as long as we open it.

- 2 Peter 1:20-21- “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
- 2 Timothy 3:16- “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”

THE WORD OF GOD gives INSTRUCTION to live a new life.
Through his Word, God instructs us on truth about himself, the world, and ourselves. Through his word, God gives us power to live a new life that pleases Him.

- 2 Timothy 3:16-17- “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
- Hebrews 4:12-13- “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

“Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives.” (Howard Hendricks)
“This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” (John Owen)

There are ETERNAL REWARDS for following God’s Word.

Psalm 19:7-11- “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

God's Notifications

If you're anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with notifications. You know what I'm talking about. The red number in the corner of your Facebook page; the blinking LED light on your phone; the bold number in your email inbox. When I see these notifications, I have to click on them. I hate seeing unread emails or unchecked social media notifications, and I therefore compulsively check these things to make sure I receive all the notifications.

My (somewhat pathetic) eagerness in this area led me to question my heart recently. How eager am I to check the invitations, alerts, and notifications that God is giving me? When I see the blinking LED light indicating a new tweet or text message, I immediately check it. Yet, how often does God reach out to my heart through his Spirit or his Word with an alert, a notification, a conviction or message? And how often do I delay in responding to his message? Do I check God's communication with me as eagerly and passionately as I check my smartphone? Or do I ignore God and pay him little attention?

Read the verses below. They (along with the rest of Scripture) clearly show that God reaches out to us, to get our attention and call us into relationship with himself. Be honest with yourself. Like those who rejected God in the verses below, do we "resist the Holy Spirit" and pay God "no attention" because we are "not willing"? Or do we eagerly wait for God's alerts and notifications in our lives?

Acts 7:51“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you."

Luke 13:34- "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

Matthew 22:4-6- "Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God wants to redeem all of you...

Walking with Jesus has many seasons. Many peaks, and many valleys. Sins that were struggled with yesterday may not even tempt you today. Sins you never thought you'd struggle with may be what weighs you down most today. And so, I want to offer us a quick, encouraging reminder as you battle with a sin, temptation or struggle: think big picture. Jesus doesn't want to cure you of one struggle. Your walk with Him is not exclusively defined by one sin, by one battle. Jesus wants to redeem all of you.

Let me explain. Many go through a time of sexual struggle, and allow their failures or victories with that struggle to completely define them as a Christian. Many do the same with a struggle with speech. Many struggle financially, and we feel loved by God and closer to Him when he provides materially, and possibly less so when he doesn't. So remember, as you battle a specific sin or test in life, that Jesus doesn't just want to make you pure sexually, or conquer your potty mouth, pride issues, envy, etc. Nor does he just want to provide for you materially. What he wants is to redeem all of you, and make you completely like him in every way. 

CS Lewis puts it best,

"Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment. 
    That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect— until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’"

Friday, May 4, 2012

Why I (kinda) like Christian Hip Hop

I am the least likely candidate to purchase a hip hop album. I'm a pasty Bible Major kid from the suburbs who loves guitars. In all honesty, the 2 most popular genres of music from my semi-agricultural hometown are country and mariachi. You'd have a triple take if you heard bass n' beats sneaking out the cracked window of my Corolla with 3 plastic hubcaps. But recently, I must confess I've purchased a few Christian Hip Hop albums, and to my surprise, I really enjoy them. Not just because of the beats or the auto-tune, but for real, substantial reasons.

1. Hip Hop is declarative. Hip hop generally comes across as confident, brash, maybe even arrogant. The genre encourages bold declaration. While most hip hop seemingly declares accomplishments of money-making, women-winning, and other self-centered items, Christian hip-hoppers use that same confidence to declare truths about God and commitment to his purpose. For example, to hear Trip Lee boldly declare "to die is gain!" uses the confidence of the genre to declare a great truth of the Christian faith. And, you know what, it really works.

2. Hip Hop allows for deep, specific lyrical expression. You've all heard Christian "rock" songs that seemingly repeat themselves, tying one Christian cliche after another. It may sound good or feel good, but there isn't much depth there, right? Contrarily, Christian hip hop is a great vehicle for many words to be spoken, which allows for great specificity and great depth when explaining biblical truths or spiritual applications. I mean, what recent Christian rock song unpacks the value of church commitment the way that Stephen the Levite does in his "Church Membership" track? Or how about a track on the importance of Biblical Theology, like the one Shai Linne provides? Hip hop allows for deep, specific expression of truth that goes perfectly with Christian truths and living in a way that other genres don't.

3. Everyone loves a good beat. There's a reason the pastiest of my pasty friends will download top 40 tracks and be caught tapping a foot or 3 to those said tracks. Everyone loves a good beat. And you know what, I've found that Christian hip-hoppers have come a long way in their production quality. How much sweeter that beat is when Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka and company are declaring gospel truths! Much better than an ode to one's own sexiness, in my opinion :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Review of 'Days with Jesus'

When seekers and believers alike attempt to learn more about the person of Jesus, they are most often directed to the Gospel of John in the New Testament. And in reading this gospel, several questions inevitably arise. In this book, Days with Jesus, Pastor/Author Jim Jackson has written an extremely helpful counterpart to the gospel of John that will answer most, if not all, of those pesky questions. The author tackles the text, stories, and themes in an intriguing and multi-faceted manner: a dose of history, a helping of theology, a skosh of science, and two scoops of spiritual application amount to an exciting and penetrating read that will certainly have something for everyone. Not only does Jim do this from the written page, but incredibly well-done videos accompany each chapter and are found on the book’s website ( These videos offer a great auditory and visual complement to the book and are excellently shot on site in Israel from the locations where each event takes place- color me satisfied!

The strengths of Days with Jesus are many. Here’s why you should read it:
- You will personally interact with the story of Jesus. The voice and tone of the book do not allow one to be an innocent bystander!
- You will learn new things about Jesus. Technical historical, scientific, or theological nuances are explained in a clear and accurate manner.
- You will feel convicted by Jesus. Thoughtful discussion questions, penetrating applications, and memorable quotes all highlight the message of Jesus and urge the reader to be transformed.
- You will laugh. There are several witty remarks, interesting observations, and funny one-liners that keep you on your toes.
- You will meet the true Jesus. As a reader, I was continually placed in the story, viewing Jesus as an eyewitness would have viewed him. It was a fascinating view, indeed.

I imagine that you could enjoy this book as your own personal study, as your family devotions, as your small group curriculum, or possibly as a church-wide walk through the gospel of John. However and whenever you choose to walk through the life of Jesus and the gospel of John, you should certainly do so with Days with Jesus at your side...

(Disclaimer: Yes, my pastor wrote this book, and yes I would love him even if the book sucked. But the book rocks! I'd even recommend it if a Boston Celtics' fan wrote it.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Remember the Cross

Many today in our culture generally disapprove of rote rituals (especially my young peers). We don't like to be boxed in, controlled, or told what we have to do by some institution. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, we are generally authentic and don't like to fake things. On the other hand, we may reject rituals that are good for us.

As Christians, we are supposed to remember the cross everyday, to live in light of the cross and the grace that forgives our sins and cleans up our sin-stained lives. We read great books like "The Cross-Centered Life" and "The Gospel for Real Life" and realize that interaction with the cross is not just a once a year event- the cross is for day-by-day, minute-by-minute life for the Christian.

However, with this in mind, I want to challenge you to remember the cross more specifically the Easter weekend. It's a healthy ritual to practice: to think, reflect, pray, meditate, and worship in light of the cross more purposely, more intently this time of year. Similarly, God gave Israel annual celebrations (like Passover) for the specific purpose of remembering his work in years past- so they wouldn't forget his redemption. Even in our own culture, we celebrate past events like birthdays and anniversaries every single year. Does that mean we appreciate our life only on our birthday and not the rest of the year? Or does that mean we enjoy our marriage only on our anniversary and not the rest of the year? Of course not. It's healthy to celebrate and reflect more specifically on these important events- and none is more important than the cross.

So I encourage you to live a cross-centered life- 24/7/365. Live it passionately, live it intently, and live it in light of Jesus' sacrifice every single day. And I also encourage you to remember it more specifically and more deeply on Easter, as it is good for your soul.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Disapproving Love

Ah, yes, the obligatory post on love, even though it's a few weeks past Valentine's Day...

Love is one of the most beautiful and unique words in the Bible. Particular passages on love have crept outside the doors of the church and seemingly infiltrated most corners of even secular society. "Love is patient, love is kind..." "Love your neighbor as yourself..." "For God so loved the world..."

I'm not sure when it happened but "love" has become a trendy, hip word. It became a word that signifies "acceptance", "approval", "tolerance", regardless of the issue. If you truly love, our culture teaches, you will accept everyone for who they are and the lifestyle they choose to lead. Not only will you accept them, but you will applaud their choices, so as not to be a hater. Whether it's sexual expression, spirituality, or politics, we are implicitly and explicitly admonished to approve and applaud of all positions, decisions, and choices. After all, to disapprove means a lack of love, right?

This is not the love of the Bible. This, if I may, is not the love of Jesus. Many are quick to point out Jesus' grace on the adulterous woman in John 8. "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her...Neither do I condemn you," many are quick to point out. Jesus' command to "Go, and from now on sin no more" is less celebrated in our day and age. What is often overlooked is that the love of Jesus' is a disapproving love. What I mean is that, because of his love, Jesus disapproves of practices and beliefs that dishonor God and harm the soul of man. If we are to love the way that Jesus loved, doesn't that indicate that at times, disapproving of a lifestyle or belief may be the most loving thing we can do? Does the fellow hiker who gives a warning about a treacherous trail, or a rattlesnake on the path not warn his companion of nearby dangers out of love?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating a haughty, quick-to-judge, or critical mentality. But as believers, as CHRISTians, let's not be afraid to love like Jesus did- at times, that means lovingly disapproving of actions, attitudes, and beliefs that dishonor God and harm God's image-bearers. We must love this way for God's glory and for man's good.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sarcasm Seasoned Speech

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt..." Colossians 4:6

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29

You know the really convicting part about the above verses? It's the fact that both speak about how our speech should exclusively be. How often is my speech to be gracious? Colossians 4:6 answers "always." How much corrupting talk should exit my mouth? Ephesians 4:29 indicates "none", and that "only" edifying speech should be present. Those are tough commands, right there, and such commands apply today to our spoken, written, and typed communication.

What concerns me most when I analyze the way that I talk and communicate is that it appears that sarcasm, not gracious, edifying speech, is often the type of speech that "always" or "only" leaves my mouth. In other words, sarcasm is my default way of talking or communicating; to speak in a sincere, edifying, and gracious way, I often have to "reprogram" myself and go against my default. Moreover, in most instances sarcasm and gracious speech are mutually exclusive! Meaning, if I'm being sarcastic, there's no way that I'm also being gracious! Maybe you can relate?

Sarcastic speech is likely grown in many different soils. Maybe sarcasm is a shield to hide behind, and I'm sarcastic because I'm afraid to be found out. Maybe sarcasm is the path of least resistance, and I'm sarcastic because sincerity is hard, and seriousness often mocked in our culture. Maybe sarcasm is a stage to arrogantly display my wittiness, and I'm sarcastic because jocularity gets more laughs and attention than encouragement.

I'm not saying that gracious speech should be easy to come by; nor am I saying that there is no place for humor or sarcasm. But we are in a dangerous spot when our springs naturally flow sarcastic waters rather than grace-giving waters. If you are part of Sarcastics Anonymous like myself (I am the chairman), make it a point each day to speak graciously, to respond sincerely, and to think about what's edifying (not just what's funny) before you speak, write, or type.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Christians Call Themselves on Twitter

Here's an interesting article on what Christians call themselves on Twitter. Apparently the term "Christian" is not-too-frequently used on the profiles of, well, Christians. The author observes, "But here’s what struck me. Very few used the word Christian, and no one used the word Evangelical- not a single profile in my wanderings."

The author of the article also lists some interesting profile descriptions he found with his snarky commentary in parentheses below...

"Jesus Adventurer (…and the Temple of Doom)
Undershephard of Jesus Christ (Looks great on a church business card)
Happy clappy Jesus lover (Mission strategy- balloon animals)
JesusFreak (The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland)
Advancer of the Kingdom (and Knight of the Communion Table)
Saint and sinner whose only hope is Jesus Christ (In other words, I’m still a jerk)
Jesus loves me (Maybe, but I’m his favorite)
Servant to the Son of Man (Award for most insider lingo in just six words)
Loved, redeemed (and understated)
Navigating the narrow path by God’s grace (But wide is the path that leads to cliches)
I don’t care where you bury me. I’ll be home, and I’ll be free. (And so will we)
Jesus took my wheel (but the NRA has my back)
Child of the King (King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia does have over 35 children you know)
Χριστιανός (English is so unsanctified)"

For what it's worth, I describe myself as an "Already, but not yet, resurrected fallen mann..." I guess I'm not as clever as I thought!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why We're Moving to La Verne

My wife Kelley and I have lived in the same apartment for our 3+ years of wedded bliss. It ain't too classy, but, you know, nice. It also happens to be located in the city I grew up in (CHINO!). We like our apartment, rent is cheap, it's close to my parents (more free meals), relatively close to work, and pretty safe and quiet. Yet, tomorrow, we move to a town called La Verne ~8 miles away. (My wife is actually in the other room packing while I sit on the computer. Hmmm...) And if you're reading this, you're likely to be close enough to me to wonder, "Why the heck are they moving?"

As you may know, we serve the high schoolers and junior highers at our church. We love them, and attempt to teach them God's word, with our hope and desire being that they start to live passionately for Jesus as a teenager, and never lose that love and passion for the rest of their lives. One of my favorite verses on ministry comes from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:8. He writes, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."

How does this relate to our move? It's pretty simple. We aren't crazy far from church, but we're far enough away that it hinders and limits the relationships and fellowship we can have with our teens (and the other "old people" in our church too!) It also limits the effect they can and will have on us. In this verse, Paul writes that he loved those he ministered to so much, that he didn't just want to teach and share the gospel with them; he wanted to share "our own selves"! Paul teaches here that, to have an effective ministry, you can't merely be a teacher that students listen to once a week; you must be a friend and confidant that they connect with day in and day out.  Weekly, we teach Bible studies and "share the gospel of God" with our students. But God has guided us in a way where we believe living 1 mile away will lead to us sharing "our own selves" with them in a way that living 8 miles away would not. We believe that for God to shape us, mold us, teach us, and use us, this was a wise step in the right direction.

So Chino, I'll miss you. I'll miss the cow smell, and especially the proximity of Flo's (and her biscuits and gravy). But, church family (and specifically teenager), give us the blessing of not just sharing studies and lessons, but sharing life together.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

David didn't get paid to write the Psalms

I have shelves (and boxes) full of great books. Many of them have been encouraging in times of need, pointing me to God, and his gracious character. However, I have turned to none of them in times of spiritual, emotional, and physical needs as frequently as I have returned to the beloved Psalms. They encourage, inspire, comfort, and edify more consistently and powerfully than any other words I have read.

Recently, during another foray through the Psalms, I was trying to put myself in the shoes of David (author of ~50% of the Psalms). Where was he while he was writing? What was he looking at? Was it day? Was it night? How long did it take him to write? Did he edit or rewrite any of the Psalms? How old was he during these various Psalms? Somewhere in that train of thought, I realized that David, a shepherd first, and then later a King, put hours and hours into writing the Psalms...and never got paid a dime for it! His profession was a shepherd over his family's flocks, and later a King and military leader of Israel. The Psalms that we read and love are entirely a product of passion, something done in David's downtime on the job or in his free-time at home. And I wonder if he knew the impact his words would have on millions?

Now, this is not a condemnation of those who write as their profession. Many books to me have been worth their weight in gold. But David's example convicts me in this way. What am I pouring myself into wholeheartedly, simply out of passion and love for God? What do I do in my free-time that ministers to others powerfully? Do I pour myself into my personal prayer life via songs, poems, journals, blogs, tweets with the same fervor David did?

When we think about it, David had a lot in common with you and me. He had a job (that likely was more physically taxing and smelly), he had responsibilities in his family, and he likely was fatigued as a result. Yet imagine if David had spent his free-time on himself rather than pouring himself passionately into the Psalms. The loss would be tremendous. Let's use our free time in prayer, ministry, and love for God and others as intently as David did.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Helpful Comments on "Radical"

David Platt's book Radical (much like Chan's Crazy Love) has seemingly spread like a wildfire through conservative Christian circles. And rightfully so. His urgent call to true discipleship, passionate evangelism, and compassionate missions is a necessary message to our often laid-back, comfortable churches. I was certainly blessed, convicted by his strong words.

However, something hasn't quite sat right with me as I've marinated on the book's message and what it means for a young married (American) guy, pursuing lay ministry in my local church while pursuing a career to provide for my family as well. I've felt that my "ordinary" life was almost condemned by his words. Can I be a career guy with a house and a dog (yellow lab, please), serving my local church and still be a Christian? (Note: I'm still not sure if this is because of Platt's words or my wrestling with them).

Enter in a very helpful review by Kevin DeYoung. DeYoung is careful to highlight the many strengths of Radical while humbly warning of its weaknesses and potential mis-applications. Even better, DeYoung seems to have "younger evangelicals" like myself in mind. He also allows Platt to respond to his criticisms, making this a very helpful and balanced article, one I highly encourage you to read if you've been impacted by the book; if you don't have the time to read the whole thing, I've pasted the most penetrating comment below:

"I don’t worry for David’s theology, but I worry that some young Christians reading his book might walk away wondering if a life spent working as a loan officer, tithing to their church, praying for their kids, learning to love Christ more, and serving in the Sunday school could possibly be pleasing to God. We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years. I imagine David wants this same thing. I’m just not sure this came through consistently in the book."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So, is it a sin to be rich?

In conservative Christian circles, we push hard against the idols of materialism. And rightfully so, since the love of money is "a root of all kinds of evil" and "you cannot serve both God and money" (1 Tim. 6:10; Matt. 6:24). But, I have noticed in our circles (and, frankly, sometimes in my heart) a tendency to look down on wealth as though it were an inherent evil. Sometimes, it seems that we view being rich as a sin in and of itself (even though we'd never say this!)

The Bible is loaded (pun intended) with teachings about money, wealth, and riches. One such applicable passage is found in 1 Timothy 6. In verse 17, Paul tells Timothy (a younger pastor) how to address the rich, by writing, "As for the rich in this present age..." There is no doubt about whom he is speaking. Loaded people. Big wigs. Fat cats. If there ever were a great time to blast the inherent evil of wealth, this would be it! Paul does not teach that riches are sinful; rather, his instruction tells us some of the temptations that arise with having wealth, and how to worship God as a rich person. Let's check out his instruction.

"...charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."

We can sum up this instruction with 3 simple ways to worship God as a rich person (note that the instruction does not say "Become a poor person").
Be humble, for riches will tempt you to boast in your accomplishments and base your soul's worth on your net worth.
Be hopeful in God, for he gives you all good things to enjoy, including your wealth, but more importantly, your salvation.
Be helpful, for riches tempt you to place value in your portfolio, and not in freely blessing others with the blessings God has freely given you.

Piper once tweeted, "The only difference between a rich person and a poor person is the amount of money they have." And the Bible would agree. It is not a sin to be rich; it is a sin to allow riches to breed pride, self-sufficiency, and selfishness rather than humility, gratitude, and generosity.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

God Hates (a certain type of) Religion

There has been much action in the blogosphere over the spoken word video that claims "Jesus hates religion." I don't really want to get into a criticism of it, as I generally like it and find it impassioned, gospel-centered, and thought-provoking.

This discussion though did call to my mind a passage that rebukes self-righteous, skin-deep, rituals-but-no-heart religion. And from the way God talks about it, you can certainly claim that he hates it.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause."
(Isaiah 1:11-17 ESV)

God's contempt for skin-deep religion jumps off the page. He is so "weary" and "burdened" by these religious rituals, gatherings, prayers, and activities that he will "hide his eyes" and "will not listen." "Enough!" God says, "My soul hates this!" God hates religion that is mere lip-service, religion that is all external going through the motions. I find it convicting that God doesn't seem to rebuke their theology, but rather, that their theology has not penetrated their hearts.

Let's not leave these words and judgments from God as something only aimed for Israel, something that he would never say to the modern church. Therefore, it's fitting to ask, what would God's reaction be toward our church activities? Would he say "Why do you even gather? I've had enough of this!"? Would he say, "Stop praying, stop singing, stop taking communion, just stop!!"? Or would he say, as he said to the church in Philadelphia, "I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Rev. 3:8). The last thing I want to be is a gathering that God's soul hates.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Don't judge me!

Matthew 7:1- “Judge not, that you be not judged."

You may have heard the above verse quoted a time or two. Generally, this verse is used in order to prove the point that we as Christians should not judge others. People may claim that we shouldn't judge sin, we shouldn't judge right & wrong, truth & falsehood.

While it's true that we are not the ultimate judges by any means- God is- you may be surprised to learn that this verse is not teaching that we shouldn't judge at all. Whaaaat?!

Jesus here does not teach that judgment in and of itself is wrong; rather, he teaches that hypocritical judgment is wrong. He goes on to say...

"For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7:2-5

Jesus clearly teaches that, once we've done business with God concerning our own hearts & issues by "taking the log out of your own eye", we then may lovingly help others out by "taking specks out of their eyes." You see, while some people say that we shouldn't judge others at all, others are trigger-happy and judge at the drop of a hat. Jesus abhors both extremes and teaches that we must "judge with right judgment" (John 7:24).

So, we must not always refrain from passing righteous, God-centered,and loving judgment. But at the same time, we must be much quicker to pass judgment on ourselves.